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Principle of Peace Societies.- Two inquiries occasioned

by it.- First inquiry.-- The necessity of public force argued. The opinion, that Christians ought not to direct or exercise it, examined.

MY DEAR SIR; The arguments advanced in several recent publications, and the disposition of some philanthropic friends to join a Society instituted “ for the promotion of permanent and universal peace,” have induced me to examine more attentively the very important question, -What is the duty of Christians with respect to war ?* As I know that you feel those arguments, and

* Besides the Society formed in London, which has some auxiliaries in Great Britain, no fewer than seventy or eighty Societies, formed on similar principles, are said to exist in the United States of America, .


the institutions founded upon them, to be worthy of consideration and respect, and that you regard the attempt to form and communicate a just opinion on this subject as commendable, I shall make no apology for laying before you, and the public, the following reasonings and conclusions.

The Society referred to assumes, as its fundamental principle, that “ war is inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity.” By prefixing the word " all” to this proposition, its extent would have been more explicitly announced; but, as no exception is subjoined or implied, and as a subsequent rule states, “ that no person shall be eligible as a member of the committee, whose principles, on the subject of war, are not in strict accordance with those on which the Society is founded," I infer, (what is generally understood, that the Society, as such, holds this principle in its strict or absolute sense, together with its plain consequence, that all co-operation in war is, on christian principles, unlawful.* The objects of my inquiry are, whether it be true, that all war is inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity, and, by consequence, that all co-operation in war is, on christian principles, unlawful,--and, if it be found otherwise, in what cases, or in what manner, a Christian may consistently co-operate in

* In a sketch of those previous deliberations which led to the estab. lishnient of the Society, given in a periodical work, entitled the Herald of Peace, I find the following resolution was agreed to, June 6, 1815: “ It seems expedient, that the following objects should constitute the basis of the association to be formed, viz. a Society for the purpose of circulating tracts, and diffusing information, tending to show that all war is inconsistent with the interests of mankind, and is contrary to the spirit of Christianity.” But the following extract from an address of the Society, inserted in the same work, (if of the same date with the rules,) is decisive of its principle: “ The Society think it their duty to state, most distinctly, that they are principled against all war, upon any pretence.”


It is not my intention, in examining the above-cited principle, to ground my reasonings on a previous inquiry, whether the private defence of his own or another's life be lawful for a Christian living under civil government. For, although this question is often connected with the former, and they are not unrelated, they appear to me to be independent of each other. My conviction, that the principle of the Peace Society requires limitation, rests on a distinct ground from this ; namely, on the necessity of civil government, and of the coercive authority involved in it, as recognised by the Christian revelation. It is the end of this coercive authority to restrain and punish evildoers, in conformity* to justice. In order to that end, its amount and its exercise must be correspondent to the number and the means of those evil-doers. For, it is evident, that a body of determined rioters, or a corps of banditti, or invading foreigners, cannot be coerced by the ordinary instruments of municipal law. Such evil-doers would unavoidably become, if not adequately resisted, the givers and executors

* An American writer, the author of “ Letters to Caleb Strong, late Governor of Massachusetts, grounds his argument for the total unlawfulness of war on the denial of a right in society, either by divine warrant or human delegation, to take away life. His reasoning (although I doubt not it is dictated by pious and humane feelings) appears very inconclusive. But, be it so or not, it is directed against inflicting death as a chosen judicial penalty ; the wisdom and lawfulness of which are quite distinct questions from this, Whether the apprehension of criminals should be declined, when it is opposed by so much armed resistance as requires the use of deadly weapons, in order to effect it. I would ask that author, whether, if capital punishment were now to be abolished in England or America, either from a conviction that it is unchristian, or a belief that it is impolitic, (solitary confinement being substituted, even in cases of high treason, murder, &c.) and if a body of ten thousand or one thousand armed insurgents should defy the government, he would have them subvert all law, become masters of the capital, possess themselves of public and private property at their pleasure, and establish a government or anarchy of their own, rather than that they shonld be encountered in arms, (after being intreated and enjoined to submit,) and the lives of a part sacrificed, in order that the chiefs or ringleaders might be secured, and brought to trial. If he would, there seems a kind of solecism in addressing bis letters even to a " late Governor," and admitting, that, although“ the gospel makes no direct provision for organizing civil governments," it leaves men“ to adopt such civil and municipal regulations as may conduce to social happiness." Letter iv.

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of the law which their own will might dictate. The only possible way of controlling such offenders is by an armed force superior to their

If the ruler“ beareth not the sword in vain," it must be because there are other swords at his direction. The mere display of his" own, as an ensign of office, can, in such cases, avail nothing. If the lives of such associated offenders are forfeited without judicial condemnation, it is on the same account as the life of a single criminal has sometimes been, ou account of resistance to the lawful apprehension of his person. If they do not so resist, or even if they surrender themselves after resistairce, they become prisoners of the State. Thie person who takes up arms, at the summons of his government, to assist in apprehending these criminals, whether domestic or foreign, serves the State in essentially the same manner as the officer of justice who apprehends, by force, an armed and resolute robber.

The one force is called, from its organization, civil; and the other, military; but their acts in such cases admit of no real distinction. A contest against either banditti, rebels, or invaders, may be protracted, offensive, and bloody; and so, on a minute scale, may be the pursuit of a single desperate robber; yet both may be purely defensive of the public peace,

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